The likes of the Ford Mondeo, and Vauxhall Insignia have been driven out of the UK top ten new car sales chart by smaller fuel efficient hatchbacks and crossover/SUVs. Some popular brand larger family/business cars have never really featured in the top ten sales chart, models such as the Honda Accord, Toyota Avensis, Citroen C5, peugeot 508, Volkswagen Passat, the Skoda Octavia/Superb and the Mazda6.
Mazda UK expects the all-new Mazda6 Saloon and Tourer to achieve around 7,500 sales in its first year with 65% of buyers opting for the Saloon and 80% of users choosing a diesel engine, in keeping with its company car/user chooser customer target.
Whilst some manufacturers have been busy driving down the hybrid path and some down the electric route, Mazda have taken the view there are much more practical and affordable gains yet to be had from conventional petrol and diesel engines by reducing component frictions, more accurate control of the fuel injection and electronic engine mapping and all wrapped up in lightweight, aerodynamic and so more agile bodyshells.
The recently introduced third generation Mazda6 with 2.0-litre 143bhp and 162bhp petrol and 2.2-litre 148 or 173bhp diesel engines with six-speed manual/auto transmissions options is available in four door Saloon and five door Tourer estate forms. Levels of specification are SE, SE-L and Sport. A supplementary Nav level of specification can be added to each of the main specification grades. Mazda UK, in an effort to make the Mazda6 even more appealing to business car users, have just introduced a free Nav upgrade worth £700 to the range for the remainder of this year, sat/nav being an important must-have option for company car drivers. I guess retail customers should also try and haggle the same deal – after all a sale is a sale whether it business or private use.
Officially prices range from £19,595 to £28,295 on-the-road. All use SKYACTIV technologies to save fuel, lower emissions and with a lighter-weight construction. Similar in its thinking to BMW’s award winning EfficientDynamics programme.
Fuel economy claims range from 47.9 to 67.3mpg with CO2 emissions ranging from 108 to 136g/km. This in turn means VED road tax can be as low £0 First Year rate and then £20 for the second year onwards or up to £125 for every year for the highest level of CO2 output. Company cars drivers will pay between16 to 19% Benefit-in-Kind tax, all depending on the actual model/engine chosen.
Whichever model it is looks cost effective to run in this medium/large family C/D car sector. Important factors for the fleet and business user-chooser markets where Mazda has to become more competitive after showing a 16% fall in UK sales last year. This year with the arrival of the Mazda6 and the very fine CX-5 Crossover sales have bucked-up with a 5.8% increase. The new Mazda6 will of course still appeal to brand-loyal retail buyers but with the competitive pricing and low tax implications the new C/D sector Saloon or Tourer estate should appeal to all and could stem the downsizing flow of company car drivers looking to pay less personal tax.
I have just had a spell in perhaps the ideal company car version of the Mazda6, the 2.2D 148bhp diesel manual Saloon with Sport-Nav specification and priced at £25,895 but now with £700 off for company car/fleet buyers so for them this model costs £25,195. First of all the financial aspects of running this car. With CO2 emissions of only 108g/km the VED road tax is £0 in the First Year rate and then only £20 per annum for the second year onwards. The competitive price and low CO2 emissions means Benefit-in-Kind company car tax is 16% which for the 20% tax payer is £68 a month and £137 a month for the 40% tax rate employee. Insurance costs too are reasonable with a 21E rating. As for fuel economy, officially the Combined Cycle figure is 67.3mpg and for the size, performance and comfort offered by my test Mazda6 I thought the 45.8mpg it returned for a week’s driving over the usual types of roads from motorways to local commuting, was very good, that was until I looked at the official EU figure of 67.3mpg which is unrealistic in real-life.
The SKYACTIV technology tweaks include as I’ve already said detailed engineering to the engine/transmission to reduce friction and optimum electronic fuel management changes make the most of the fuel efficient power output. One of the friction reducing changes is to use a single overhead camshaft operating just two valves per cylinder – less components – less friction and weight than multi-valve DOHC units.
SKYACTIV also includes i-Stop idle-stop/start function and i-ELOOP brake energy regeneration system which is claimed to boost economy by up to 10%. In reality the four-cylinder turbodiesel engine with 148bhp, but more importantly 380Nm (280lb ft) of torque from 1,800rpm, makes this unit really responsive mid-range and the taller top gear ratio, helped by the torque, means the car can be driven at quiet low speeds in a high gear so saving on fuel use. It was even quite happy at 35mph in top gear making for a relaxed drive, important for high mileage drivers and the engine is quiet and smooth for a diesel. Top speed is not slow either despite its ‘eco’ configuration returning 131mph and a zero to 62mph time of 9.0 seconds.
At 4,870mm in length with an extended wheelbase the new Mazda6 is quite a large four door saloon and it seats five adults with a large 483-litre boot to match and the specification is high so as an overall package it’s impressive. Passenger space in the rear seats is especially impressive. The ride comfort is generally acceptable but on the firm side. Body control is also good, not as sharp as a BMW, but that is no bad thing. On motorways and main roads with good surfaces the suspension generally copes well but on country roads with poorer surfaces the firm ride and handling becomes less capable and enjoyable and the 19-inch alloy wheels might look good but they do nothing for ride comfort and suspension performance.
The interior design allows for a cockpit front area where controls and instruments fall nicely to hand and to the driver’s line-of-site. The only downside was some reflections in the windscreen despite the cowled design of the instrument panel. Specification is of course high with all the usual items from air con to electric windows and mirrors to cruise control, Bose sound system, sat/nav, computer, reversing camera, leather trim, power adjustable heated front seats and thankfully a spare wheel, albeit a space saver type.
Will it impress your friends? The exterior is really very smart with the now usual sculptured aerodynamic lines which lowers aerodynamic drag and helps with good fuel economy. In a ‘conservative’ sort of way the Mazda6 Saloon looks classy and a car of quality. Those features, plus the low running costs for a large saloon in this sector, have to appeal to company car users as well as discerning private buyers. I can see why the new Mazda6 has already won several awards for its design and performance from national motoring publications aimed at retail and fleet/business customers.
MILESTONES. Mazda6 2.2D 150 Sport Nav, 4-Door Saloon. Price: £25,895 (Now £25,195 for business/fleet customers due to free Nav upgrade). Engine/transmission: SKYACTIV technology 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel, 148bhp, 280lb ft of torque from 1,800rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 131mph, 0-62mph 9.0-seconds, Combined Cycle 67.3mpg (45.8mpg on test), CO2 108g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £20 per annum second year onwards, BIK company car tax 16%. Insurance group: 21E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,870mm, W 1,840mm, H 1,450mm, boot 483-litres, 4-doors/5-seats. For: Low running and tax costs, high specification, roomy cabin, large boot, smart styling, generally comfortable ride. Against: Large wheels unsettle suspension control over poorer road surfaces, road noise intrusion. Miles Better News Agency